WeChat, China’s leading social networking and payment app, has now integrated the country’s central bank digital currency, the digital yuan, into its payment services, according to local reports. This move comes after Alipay, another leading payment platform, added the same functionality to its platform in December 2022. WeChat’s addition of the digital yuan fast payment function allows users to make payments on certain mini-programs and platforms that support the digital yuan.
The pilot version of the digital yuan application’s “Wallet Quick Payment Management” page currently lists 94 platforms, now including WeChat, that can be accessed. The integration enables WeChat Pay to allow digital yuan payments on certain apps, such as McDonald’s food orders and bill payments. However, users need to authorize the digital yuan wallet operator to sync their WeChat-bound mobile phone number to activate the fast payment function successfully.
According to Linghao Bao, an analyst at Trivium China, a strategic advisory firm, “Chinese consumers are so locked in WeChat Pay and Alipay, it’s not realistic to convince them to switch to a new mobile payment app. So it makes sense for the central bank to team up with WeChat Pay and Alipay as opposed to doing it on its own.”
The digital yuan, also known as the e-CNY, is being piloted in at least 26 Chinese provinces and cities. The token saw an increase in transaction volumes on Chinese e-commerce platforms during the 2023 Lunar New Year shopping season, helped by e-CNY handouts from authorities.
Alipay had announced its access to the digital yuan acceptance network in December 2022, enabling users to spend digital yuan consumption on platforms served by Alipay, including Taobao, Shanghai Bus, Ele.me, Youbao, Tmall Supermarket, and Hema.
As the digital yuan’s integration with leading payment platforms like WeChat and Alipay grows, it is expected to become more widely adopted in China, potentially challenging existing payment methods like cash and cards. The central bank’s collaboration with these platforms is likely to help broaden the appeal of the digital yuan among Chinese consumers who are already comfortable with these apps.